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How Many Steps Does Your Child Really Need?
by Fitbit Staff

It might seem like your child has an endless supply of energy—or at least like they never stop moving. But how much physical activity do they actually do—and need—every day?  

The Australian Department of Health’s definition of physical activity is any activity that gets your body moving, quickens your breathing, and ups your heart rate. Along with the New Zealand Ministry of Health, they recommend that children between the ages of 5 and 12 engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

That physical activity can come in countless forms, from swimming to cycling to playing a team sport, but in the midst of a busy lifestyle it can be tricky to carve out solid time for a focused block of activity every day. The good news is that incidental activity can be just as beneficial to your child’s health as the other, more planned kind.

How to Get More Activity Into Your Child’s Day

Put your best foot forward. One particularly good type of incidental exercise is walking. It’s not only effective, but it can also be seamlessly inserted into your daily routine.

A study conducted by the Australian Department of Health showed that the 5- to 11-year-olds who participated were taking up to 12,000 steps a day—the minimum recommended amount for that age bracket. Depending on a child’s particular age and body mass index, it’s suggested that a child’s daily step count fall between 12,000 and 15,000. That might sound like a lot, but with a few simple adjustments here and there, it’s easy to increase your child’s step count every day.

Leave the car at home. It’s amazing just how many steps you can add to your week by making a few conscious changes to your usual ways of going about business. One shift that’ll make a huge difference is leaving the car at home and walking to school, the shops, or wherever else you and your family might usually drive. If those destinations are too far away to walk the entire distance, you can always drive or take public transport part of the way, and then walk the rest.

Boost the pace—and the fun. A nice, leisurely walk is definitely a good start to increasing your child’s daily step count, but walking at a brisk pace is even better, not to mention getting you to wherever you’re going sooner! “Gamifying” a walking trip is a fun approach to increasing your child’s step count. Setting little time challenges, or breaking up the journey with periods of skipping, running or hopping to keep their movement dynamic will ensure they stay entertained along the way.

Being healthier and happier together. Walking with your child isn’t just great for physical health, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to bond—a slice of time for taking in the world and talking about whatever is happening in your lives. This kind of connecting time with your child is an excellent way to enhance your relationship, while further developing their cognitive growth, confidence, and self-esteem. Making regular physical activity a family priority sets an invaluable health example for your child that will serve them throughout their lifetime.  

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.